Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Why You Shouldn't Pull Back the Corn Husk in Stores

Kudos to those courageous enough to come out of the grocery-shucking closet and confess that they rip open their ears prior to purchase...and who want an explanation of why that's a bad thing.

Typical comments:
"Why is it wrong to want to check that what you are buying has not been half eaten by corn worms?"
"I do this, shame on me, or not. I peel back the shucks just enough to reveal the end of the cob. If it is missing kernels or has very tough woody kernels ("cow corn") I put it back. There's gotta be a reason that my local supermarket can charge $2.99 for a pre shucked four pack of cobs you can get in the shucks at 50 cents or less."
Let me explain. It's like checking eggs by cracking them open in the store. Yes, you will avoid bad eggs this way, but you'll ruin your good ones in the process, and leave your fellow customers with ruined eggs, as well.

Consider:
1. There aren't that many truly bad ears.

2. Due to #1, the vast majority of discarded ears have merely cosmetic issues. People claim to be avoiding worms, but what they're actually doing is searching for a certain look. God forbid there should be a few misshapen or under-grown kernels at the tip.

3. Husks are nature's ideal way of delaying the processes of drying and of conversion of sugar to starch (much as shells are the perfect means of keeping eggs fresh). By ripping them open, you lose that defense, and your corn will go bad much, much faster. You've turned a lifespan of a couple days into a lifespan of hours, even minutes. And consider the corn you've left for strangers. If you've done your damage at, say 10 am, late afternoon shoppers are stuck with shitty corn. (note: "replacing your divot" so to speak - taking only a small peek and trying to rewrap the husk - is ineffective. The seal's broken, period).

4. This forces the store to throw out tons of corn before its time. A plague of human locusts force American retailers to throw out mountains of corn before its time. Vast quantities of water and carbon are wasted due to the mulish assertion of consumer's perceived right to winnow through haystacks of corn for that magical, legendary, perfect ear. Viable, delicious food is blithely turned into garbage for no good reason, and at the cost of everyone's freshness, including the consumer's own (this is game theory where all parties lose).

5. You know how at home, a bit of silk always winds up on your floor, and it's tricky to clean up every last strand? Consider the stores. You're turning their floors into a sticky disgusting mess. Cleaning that involves yet more water and more carbon.

6. Who do you think pays for those mountains of needlessly ruined corn, and for the titanic efforts to clean up the ever-expanding web of corn silk on grocery floors?

20 comments:

vhliv said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vhliv said...

Thanks! I actually was thinking about the corn at green markets, which is where I buy my corn. For the record, I peel as little as possible, and try to keep the husk relatively intact. I cannot agree with you that there aren't that many bad ears, I would hazard that 1 out 10 ears have a problem.

Husky Corn said...

Do you have any data about how much corn is discarded due to having been tested by consumers?

Husky Corn said...

And do you know if markets in other parts of the world present ears to consumers that are either worm infested or have very little kernel development, and if markets are easily able to determine, for a given crate of corn, how prevalent these issues are, and if they are capable of that, why they avoid doing so?

Anonymous said...

Thanks once again for explaining the obvious Jim. My mom grew her own corn and always put the pot on to boil before picking the ears.
Later I was at a farm stand near Dennisville NJ and the farmer was horrified when my friend peeled the husk back a little. He exclaimed "you are letting all the freshness out!" True we bought the ears he peeled and it was only one or two and we were eating them in less than an hour but still.
I was at Frankenfield on sunday, not far from Asher's, and the place was swarming. There was a spot to husk your corn and many people were availing themselves of it. At the time, it was very hot and I remember thinking don't those folks have nice compost piles that would benefit from those lovely husks? The peel directly before you cook rule is so engrained I even forgot about the freshness factor. Frankenfield is in Mennonite country and like several other places he uses the honor system. Has done for many years.
I wonder who is buying the pre-stripped ears all neatly sealed in see-through plastic that I see at Wegmans?
In response to Husky Corn, the friend that did the little bit of stripping also had grown his own corn and was hoping for a worm or three in his ears of corn. He told me Jersey farmers knew that the worms picked the sweetest ears to sample. They usually only show up at the ends and it is a simple matter to cut them out and toss them onto the bodacious compost heap as well.

Jim Leff said...

"the worms picked the sweetest ears to sample"

Oh, man, I LOVE that! Thanks for posting!

Husky Corn said...

Is it even true that corn ears remain fresh longer in the husk than shucked and packed in plastic?

When making bold statement about the stupidity around us, it's probably good to be more considerate. Apple investors selling at $130 a year ago may not have been idiots, and people performing quality assurance on corn that's delivered in "rustic" packaging to disguise poor quality are just doing their part.

Display Name said...

Husky why not do your own research and report back? Would be interested in your findings. One other thing I do because I am lucky enough to have a chest freezer is to freeze the cobs after eating. Then deep in the winter I make corn stock with them. The house fills up with the smell of August on the darkest of days. I generally make very tasty rice with the corn stock.

Jim Leff said...

Husky Corn,

Display Name is right: if you're genuinely curious, do your own research and (if you'd like) report back.

This is a sleepy little Slog where I offer my perspective and opinions on an IMO basis, for taking or leaving. I'm certainly open to dissenting voices, however, so feel free to dissent! But please forgive my unaccountability. :)

Husky Corn said...

I did my own research, I was obliquely suggesting that you haven't done yours. Of course you are more than entitled to run a blog with random raves and rants.

Jim Leff said...

Thanks for permission. The real puzzle is what you're doing here, reading (clearly for some time) a blog filled with random raves and rants?

If you derive benefit (as you plainly do), then why not unshmuck and offer illuminating information, in the same friendly spirit of sharing that you've been enjoying from my end? Trolling and belligerence are a dysfunctional means of drawing attention. You're not so low (nor am I so high) that you must kick ankles for recognition. I'm just some Long Island mall rat asshole who accidentally started a cool web site years ago, and who runs a kooky blog, trying his feeble best.

"It's impossible to feel intimidated by the presence of a thunderous Wizard of Oz once you realize there's always a helpless little dude behind the curtain!"

Husky Corn said...

Rants are amusing.

Husks do not protect ears of corn very well. In fact they dehydrate the ears much more quickly than if it were shucke, wrapped in saran, and chilled to around below 55 degrees. Sugar conversion is not impacted by husks. The hair cluster on the tip of the ear contributes to molding and worm infestation. In short, a rational approach is to shuck the ears and store them properly, but the markets and the public prefer rustic appearance over quality.

That is all I have to say about both topics, I will let you go on with the rants uninterrupted since providing information is "trolling", "kicking ankles", etc. while calling most humanity "idiots" based on incorrect notions is fine :)

Anonymous said...

Husky how do you cook your corn anyway? My one friend just enjoys it raw. Do you serve the corn as a side dish or make a meal of corn? Some people like to cut the raw kernels off the cob and then char them to include in a summer salad. I'm always looking for fresh ideas for one of my favorite foods. Judging by your user name you must love corn too.

Jim Leff said...

1. I've reread your previous contributions, above, and realize how terribly unfair I was to consider it trolling. It was, as you say, super useful information. Pearls before swine, I guess. Oink!

2. As for your latest, it sets an admirable standard for the sort of carefully supported reasoning you were trying to coax out of me. So let me respond in kind: Is not.

3. Sorry I insulted your species.

Husky Corn said...

How about those Apple shares?

James Leff said...

Bargain! Good time to buy more! It never doesn't recover. I've made great profit buying Apple dips and selling peaks, as have lots of other patient people. You should consider it!

Anonymous said...

So no corn prep tips for moi from anyone?

James Leff said...

Anon, it's all so subjective!

I've tried cooking less, but results in a toughness I really don't like. For me, 5 mins in a steamer at low heat (just enough to steam) is perfect. 4 starts to get tough.

I've tried all sorts of cutting-off-cob tricks, and never been happy (sole exception: corn chowder). I've stir-fried kernels along with spinach and bits of sausage or other meat, along with onions and garlic and 'shrooms, and it just always tastes like some corn accidentally got into my food. Never say "never", but I've pretty much given up on using it as an ingredient. Plus, something about the ritual of eating off the cob just can't be improved upon (unless you're 8 and have a loose front tooth).

I'm usually pretty contrarian/creative, but I'm a maize conservative.

Display Name said...

Heh. Thanks Jim. It is hard to improve on in season food prepared simply.

Jim Leff said...

Husky Corn,

My family and I would like to thank you for this reminder. I just sold half the shares I bought that day for a 30% profit. Not bad for 5 months!

Since I already owned older shares, I sold FIFO for the long-term gain and nice low taxes.


Thanks again!

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